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Friday, Sep 25, 2020

'Strengths and resilience': Hong Kong leader touts city's prowess

'Strengths and resilience': Hong Kong leader touts city's prowess

Carrie Lam says months of pro-democracy protests have not undermined Hong Kong's financial stability.
Hong Kong's strengths as a global financial hub have not been undermined by months of pro-democracy protests, the Chinese-ruled city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Monday.

Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a now-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. They have since broadened to include demands such as universal suffrage.

Speaking at the opening of a regional financial forum, Lam said the city's financial system remained stable, thanks to lessons learned since the Asian financial crisis. She cited the listing of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd as a boon for other listings by mainland companies.

The city's "strengths and resilience, just like our financial systems, have not been undermined despite (the fact) that we experienced considerable social unrest and challenges", Lam said.

She added she was confident the city will bridge divisions, and realise its goals of a reunited community and "flourishing" economy.

Hong Kong's economy sank into a recession for the first time in 10 years in the third quarter of 2019, as the protests kept tourists away, dealing a severe blow to the semi-autonomous territory's shops and restaurants.

Many protests involved violent clashes between protesters and the police on central streets lined by the city's tallest towers hosting top finance companies.

Some financial firms have been caught in the middle, with branches of mainland banks repeatedly vandalised as protesters vented their anger at what they perceive as Beijing meddling in the city's affairs, an accusation denied by Beijing which blames the West for fomenting unrest.

HSBC has also drawn the ire of some protesters who accuse it of being complicit in action by the authorities against activists trying to raise money to support their campaign. HSBC strongly denies any connection.

Hurt by a tariff war between Washington and Beijing, and with protests hurting tourism and retail sales, Hong Kong's economy has fallen into recession and relies on its finance industry to prevent a deeper downturn.

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